Welcome back, gamers. This week is when it gets fun, in our opinion, because we finally dive in to what it all means in real life. Thanks for being patient over these past two weeks. We think you’ll find it well worth it.
You’ve got a card revealing your primary orientation: a giver, or a receiver. The dice tell you how strong this power is for you, and, relatively, how weak you experience the inverse.
If you are primarily a giver, you initiate. You volunteer, suggest, troubleshoot, seek, fix and rescue. You send out signals at regular, steady intervals. You maintain high activity – and high control. You are the driver.
If you are primarily a receiver, you anticipate. You observe, listen, watch, ponder, provide and assess. You pause before acting or let the activity come to you. People seek you out. In broadcast terminology, you are a master signal detector. You are super-attuned, intuitive and available. You aren’t the driver, but you are no passenger, either: you are the one who maintains the car for when it’s needed.
A binary system like this usually forms a dichotomy, in that you are one or the other. Yet, common sense knows there are times when even the strongest receivers initiate and give. There are times when the most ambitious givers hang back and wait, rather than initiate. This is why we are using values starting at two, rather than zero. No person is completely incapable of giving or receiving – even in an imaginary role play.
We assigned weakness values to the inverse of your strength to help define your character. A weak giver likely appears aloof, thoughtless, clueless, self-centered, stingy, reluctant and obtuse. On the other hand, weak receivers don’t get your signals, so they, too, are misconstrued as clueless, aloof, reluctant and obtuse – along with distant, unwelcoming, constantly busy, poor listeners and never available when you need them.
But wait: this is not as simple as being a zero sum game with yourself. “Weak receiver” is not always interchangeable with “strong giver” and should not be taken as a criticism. Furthermore, can there be givers who give too much, come on too strong, offer unsolicited advice, and routinely fail to observe? Or, people who receive too much, who wait too long and fall out of touch, who spend so much time reading your mind that they miss what you are actually saying, who watch you like a hawk and make you self-conscious, who pick out every minute detail to the point of distraction?
Absolutely. There’s no clear cut good or bad here.
So, what’s it all about? Balance?
Not quite. Balance implies an even distribution of weight. It suggests finding a happy medium, an average, an equal amount of investment into opposite sides. Balance between giving and receiving would be achieved by giving as many times as you receive, or receiving as many times as you give… or, lessening the number of “gives” until you reach equilibrium with your “receives” … or, upping whichever quantity is lower until it equals the strength in the other.
Life just doesn’t work that way. We cannot keep score for ourselves or the people around us without becoming calculating or obligatory – two things that contradict sincerity. No amount of receiving will offset someone who gives to such an extent that they overpower their recipients. No amount of giving will look or feel sincere if a super-receiver suddenly goes on a giving marathon and gets it all out of the way, to offset the reputation they have of never volunteering.
The problem comes when we look at giving and receiving as transactional – especially when these things are not independent or mutually exclusive.
Sincere giving… sincere receiving… are not transactional. They are reciprocal. They are, by necessity, interdependent.
We cannot give if someone is not there to receive. We cannot receive if someone does not give.
We can neither give nor receive in isolation.
Yet, so many of us try to do just that.
Here, finally, is where our numerical values come into play.
Regardless of give value and receive value, the difference between the two gives us something much more meaningful – our RESIST FACTOR: the degree to which we resist reciprocity.
A super-giver with a give value of twelve has a receptivity of two… and a resist factor of ten. Such people give like crazy, receive once in awhile… but strongly resist anyone trying to reciprocate.
A super-receiver who is highly attuned to the needs of those around them, anticipating their friends before any call is ever made… has a receptivity of twelve, and a giving propensity of two. The resist factor is still ten. These people resist reciprocal contact to the highest degree.
In contrast, a hypothetically balanced giver-receiver, whose values are seven on both sides, has lower strength giving and receiving… but zero resist factor. These people accept help when they need it, and initiate help when it is needed. Nary a flinch.
The key factor for Missionaries of Saint Thorlak is not if we are inclined to give, or if we are inclined to receive. The number most important to know is our resist factor.
You may be a top-notch giver, or an open-armed receiver… but if you resist reciprocity, you are at high risk for spiritual starvation.
Next week, we will look more closely at the how the resist factor affects our spiritual nourishment, and where our other cards start coming into play.
PRAY: Heavenly Father, thank you for this opportunity to gain insight about myself. I consecrate all to You, exactly as I am, and ask that you reveal my strengths to me, reveal my needs to me, and use all that I have to your glory and service.
CONTEMPLATE: How might the resist factor be an impediment to spiritual nourishment?
RELATE: If this role play were to accurately reflect you, do you notice your resist factor? How easily do you accept reciprocity from others in your giving (initiating) and receiving (anticipating)?
As we pick up our RPG simulation once again, we want to briefly discuss the four decks of game play cards we have imagined: the starting deck, our superpower; then, the intent of action deck, our mode of operation deck, and our help deck. So far in our sim, we have drawn a card from the starting deck to find out if we are a giver or a receiver. We have recorded that as our power and the inverse as our weakness, such that the strong givers are weak receivers, and the strong receivers are weak givers. We have a lot more to add on that, but let us first look ahead to what the other three decks have in store.
The next card we’ll draw is our intent of action. Again, we will find only two possibilities: MATERIAL and SPIRITUAL. This will put a filter on our superpower. We can be material givers, material receivers, spiritual givers, or spiritual receivers. (Don’t worry… this game goes quickly, so you can play it enough times to experience all of the variables without having to commit to a lifetime of game play as only one or the other. If only real life were that simple… but then, that is why we have this game.)
The two decks off to the side will come into play as the game progresses. We use the first round just to practice examples of giving and receiving with our assigned intent. After the introductory round ends, we get to choose from the next deck, which tells us our mode of operation: CONNECTION or SELF-PRESERVATION. These concepts are familiar to our regular readers, but we will consider them in light of our role play and discuss how they impact the game with each variable we have mentioned. Finally, we have the fourth deck, from which we draw our help. No surprise – this, too, is a binary choice. We are assigned either SELF-HELP or MENTOR. We will get into this in more detail as well.
That is essentially the game. We can always add in settings, such as school or family or workplace, but the ideas at play will not change all that much. Hopefully, the implications and game play are fairly obvious at the outset.
As we mentioned last week, this may not be the most captivating RPG, but it is remarkably helpful in forming and illustrating our missionary mindset. Believe it or not, the point of all of this is to help ourselves become more aware of some very crucial variables in our personalities and our relationships which might be impediments to our spiritual health. It is not a personality type test or a diagnostic tool for one problem or another. It is not a cleverly disguised way to pigeonhole people, and it will never be completely accurate 100% of the time. People are people, not simulations, and we should keep our expectations focused on the living, breathing happenings of each moment – not on assumptions, rules or scripts. We like the simplicity of a simulation because it gives us an opportunity to imagine and think, and perhaps to gain insight into things we ordinarily take for granted.
Back, then, to our first deck. Which did you draw, or which did you imagine yourself to be ordinarily? Are you primarily a Giver, or a Receiver? Did you add in a dice roll to determine the intensity? How did you arrive at your choice? Was it based on what you believe about yourself, or how other people react to you? Are there some of us who still do not quite know?
For explanatory purposes, “Givers” here are people who take initiative in offering things. These are people who seem to anticipate the needs of others, who volunteer as soon as the call for help goes out, and who surprise you with visits, acts of kindness, contributions and boundless ideas. On the flip side, “Receivers” are known both in the welcoming sense and in their facility with detecting and interpreting signals. Receivers are the people you go to when you have something weighing on your mind, or when you have a joy to share, or when you want the company of someone extremely easy to be around. In fact, these people seem to “get” you better than anyone else, and are the most loyal among the people you have ever known… even if you barely know them.
If you added in the dice roll, you’ll also have a number that shows how intensely you express your superpower. The higher your super-value, the greater will the difference be in the intensity of your inverse. The value for your superpower ranges from two to 12, and the value for your weakness is your super-value subtracted from fourteen. If you are a super-giver at a power of 12, your receiving power is two; giving dominates your receiving by ten points. If you are a super-receiver of 8, your giving capability is six. Some get a lucky seven and are proportionally balanced.
(Got all that?)
It may take a lot of pondering before you realize which profile fits you better. The dynamics of your relationships can be deceiving. For instance, you might think at first you are a Giver… until you realize that others in your life consistently take from you, without much initiative on your part. Surprise! That makes you a Receiver! Others may call themselves Receivers based on the number of gatherings they host at their home, with refreshments and activities… hmm… does that makes them Givers? Then there are people who assume being extroverts means being default Givers. Is that true? Not necessarily.
Suddenly, the line between Giver and Receiver looks awfully blurry.
Perhaps we should look at the inverse. Will that help?
If you are someone who is slower to initiate interactions… someone who waits to be spoken to, or who follows the lead of others… someone who “brings up the rear” in line… someone who is still assessing the situation after others have begun taking action… if you feel reluctant, quiet or awkward…
… these are ways people criticize you for not being a Giver.
Yet, each of these traits is an asset if you are a Receiver. Especially that last one, feeling awkward – because you know what it’s like to feel out of place, and chances are, you go out of your way to make sure other people don’t have to endure that. The other traits speak to wisdom, prudence and care in listening.
If you believe you are a Receiver because you pride yourself in constantly scanning for needs… or because you check on the people around you, shrugging off anyone checking on you… or because you make yourself available 24/7 and insist people take you up on that… or because you are ready with suggestions and solutions for any situation…
… Guess what? You are a Giver!
This is getting too complicated. We need a simple definition, and fast.
Here it is.
Most generally speaking, Givers initiate, and Receivers anticipate. But we cannot know until we interact with others.
Please – remember – this is not a personality test. It is a game.
One, we hope, which will help you know your strengths… and needs… as our Missionaries.
Because we cannot embrace our needs until we know them.
PRAY: Heavenly Father, help me to know how others experience me. Do I greet more people on Your behalf, as Your ambassador – or do I more easily receive You as a guest, through them?
CONTEMPLATE: How comfortable am I in realizing my weak area in this game? Do I feel this way because of what I think, or because of what others have said to me? Would God see it this way? How would others respond if I plainly said, “Can you help me become a better __(Giver/Receiver)_____ ?”
RELATE: Continue observing your typical patterns. Are you more likely to initiate (act first) or anticipate (assess and wait before acting) in your interactions? Are you finding yourself surprised?
Imagine a role-playing game with two decks of cards to start. From one deck you draw your superpower; from the second, the intent of the interactions you will enact. Off to the side are two other decks which we will get to later, after the game gets moving.
This is a painfully simplified RPG. There are no wizards, no mythological creatures, and no tournaments to decide the future of your monarchy. In fact, it’s rather like real life. Lest we apologize for being so ordinary, keep in mind, we’re here to form missionaries. We’re aiming to make your ordinary life more meaningful – not to create a fantasy escape.
Start by taking that first card. You find one of two choices: GIVING or RECEIVING. All of the cards in this deck are either one or the other. Write this down; this is your superpower. The card you did not draw will be designated as your weakness. (If you really want to make it an RPG experience, roll dice to get a power level for each, with the highest values being the most intense).
Where would you fall out, if this wasn’t a role play, or if role playing games just aren't your thing? Which comes most naturally to you, giving or receiving?
Hold on to your answer; it’s important. First, though, let us examine these elements a bit more closely.
“Giving” is a familiar concept.
-Gifts are a sign of celebration, encouragement or consolation
-Rewards are given for achievement or hard work
-“Sharing” is a form of giving we learn to do when our first inclination might be to keep something for ourselves
Some people give readily and easily. We can quickly begin naming such people:
-Dedicated parents, teachers, coaches, mentors
-Almost anyone in the service professions
-The “popular” ones at school
There are numerous reasons a person might be oriented toward giving. Personality type is probably the most obvious, but anyone can find themselves giving in situations past their normal comfort zones. People respond to the needs around them, recognizing the greater good in giving rather than passing the opportunity (or the crisis) to someone else. Some people simply give because nobody else does. Some give because it feels good; others, because it feels right.
People who rarely or reluctantly give tend to be much more guarded, skeptical or calculating. This generally boils down to three main reasons:
-Protection from abuse, rejection, hurt or misunderstanding (= fear)
-Genuinely not knowing how or what to give (= lack of skill or resource)
-Deliberately withholding themselves for revenge or hostility (= aggression)
The concept of giving is fairly well developed and easy to recognize. To wit: who has not heard numerous times the maxim: “It is better to give than to receive”?
Which brings us, then, to the alternate concept: receiving.
“Receiving” gets a bad rap, by comparison. Think of the concepts we might readily associate with receiving:
-Getting a gift
-Taking ownership of something
-Accepting a payment
-Accepting a delivery
-Accepting a reward
-Pulling in (as in receiving a signal)
-Catching the ball, being passed a puck, or attempting to return a serve in sports
Each of these bears a connotation of taking, which itself implies a loss or giving up by someone else for our benefit. We are conditioned to think of “giving” as selfless and “receiving” as selfish.
Back to our game. What if you drew “receiving” as your superpower? Is that even possible? What would that imply for you, and to your fellow RPG players?
Besides sports players, who are the skilled receivers in our lives?
(Anyone else having a hard time?)
We admit, we have deliberately overlooked some of the other meanings of “receive.” Perhaps it is time to include those. How about having a look in Sacred Scripture? In addition to several citations meaning the connotations above, we find several other uses of this word receive, such as:
“Receive the law of [the Almighty], and lay up his words in your heart.” (Job 22:22)
“Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may eventually become wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)
Connection; Communion with God through One Another
Moses, to God: “If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.” (Exodus 34:9)
Of God: “As an eagle incites its nestlings forth by hovering over its brood, so He spread His wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions.” (Deuteronomy 32:11)
“With contrite heart and humble spirit, let us be received” (Daniel 3:39)
“Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One who sent Me.” (Matthew 10:40)
“Whoever receives one child such as this, in My name, receives Me.” (Matthew 18:5)
“The crowds, meanwhile, learned of this and followed Him. He received them and spoke with them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.” (Luke 9:11)
Clearly, there is a distinction between the material sense of receive, meaning “get,” and the interpersonal connotation, which implies connection, interaction, welcoming and generosity. But - if we may - let us also note how the material sense of receive appears in Sacred Scripture:
“Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately, they received their sight and followed Him.” (Matthew 20:34)
“Whatever you ask for in prayer, with faith, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22)
“And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:22)
Each of these instances depicts people getting things, yes. However, none of them imply loss or giving up, and none have to be earned or taken. Rather, each example is of something made freely available by God because He loves us, and for no other reason.
God, it seems, is constantly poised and ready to give. He only requires that we desire what he offers: that we receive.
In fact, as we consider all of this, receiving appears to be quite the stealth superpower, whether or not it’s the card we drew at the beginning. The intent of our action, that second deck, is going to determine whether or not our receiving is material or interpersonal.
So now, we come back to your initial answer, to yourself, as to which you would be ordinarily. Are you a skilled giver, or a skilled receiver? Is your weakness an avoidance of giving, or an avoidance of receiving? Please do not allow these ponderings to worry you. Each one of us is gaited differently. One person’s superpower is another person’s weakness, and vice versa, but each one of us has a place in the plan for this world. You may not have found yours yet, but that only means it’s still out there.
Please also note the very peculiar fact that this first deck tells you your superpower, but that superpower reveals your weakness. As we progress through the game, we will discover something remarkable: Because your weakness is the inverse of the superpower, it contains the very essence of the superpower in reverse… and so, defeating your weakness will be accomplished by applying that superpower in reverse.
Not following? Not buying it? No worries. We will continue this next week. Trust that it will all make sense. For now, let it puzzle you, as only the best games do.
PRAY: Heavenly Father of All Goodness, help us give ourselves freely to You in love… and help us receive your grace, enlightenment and healing in all of our needs.
CONTEMPLATE: Consider the Scripture verses noted this week, and settle on the one which appeals to you the most. Ponder what it is that draws you to that verse.
RELATE: Be aware this week of your interactions, noticing the many ways you give, and the many ways you receive. This will set the stage for next week’s Missionary Thought.
This week we visit another of the qualities we choose to embrace as followers in the footsteps of Saint Thorlak: Wonder.
From the earliest age, it is written, Thorlak Thorhallsson showed an unusually deep interest in everything. He was a contemplative by nature, slowly studying things around him and considering them from every possible angle, savoring the ideas and questions which came to mind as he did. It is no surprise that he was drawn to the Book of Psalms as a very young boy and learned to read by memorizing them. As an adult, and after his ordination, he would go on to write volumes of spiritual reflections and poetry of his own, tragically lost to fire and plunder over the centuries. Enough has been written about him to know that he lived this sense of wonder his entire life, and that his greatest desire was to share this wonder with everyone he could.
So, what is wonder, and how do we cultivate it as Saint Thorlak’s missionaries?
Wonder and contemplation go hand-in-hand, though one does not necessarily require the other. You could say that contemplation is the act itself, and wonder is the emotional sense of falling in love that contemplation brings about. Wonder is the delight in seeing how God and Creation each reveal the other, and the thrill of being invited into this mutual revelation. Wonder is the expression on a baby’s face at things the rest of us consider ordinary, like a ring of keys or a puff of dandelion seeds. Wonder is the excitement of observing something bigger than we are. Ideally, academic learning should begin with wonder – although as they get older, school children do not always see their subjects quite so romantically.
Our lifestyles generally do not allow for much wonder. We live in task-oriented times. We place more emphasis on information than the wonder it might evoke, and much of the information we face is not fodder for fancy. Check the weather, check the traffic, check our messages, check our appointments, check our agendas. Get driving directions, learn a set of facts, watch some viral videos, indignantly react to injustices and infringements highlighted in news feeds. Cheer on sports teams, enjoy photos of friends and family, check reviews to make a purchase, read the label on a box of ingredients. Information abounds. Wonder is in shorter and shorter supply.
Some people manage to live lives of wonder because they are naturally inclined that way. Most of us don’t. Most of us reach saturation somewhere during the day and spend the rest of our time coping with the stress of processing and handling the rest of the business on our minds before going to bed for the night. We unwind with fiction. We sleep. Perhaps we dream. And then we begin again.
Missionaries of Saint Thorlak strive toward contemplation in all that we do, but realistically, many of us struggle with finding wonder. But we mention it this week, not as a social commentary, but as a necessary element of spiritual nourishment. In that chain of our lives, with God at our origin, we can more easily recall God when we experience moments of wonder than when we plow through yards and yards of plain information. Thus, we have two choices, if we seek to actively experience God in our everyday moments. One, we can cultivate an interior sense of wonder, making a habit of looking for how God is revealed in the things around us and how the things around us are revealed in God. Two, we can cultivate an exterior sense of wonder, seeking to experience this mutual revelation through others.
One does not have to exclude the other.
In fact, those who live very rich spiritual lives do both.
Notice – especially for you readers who struggle with social anxiety, experience pain with eye contact, or who do not feel genuinely friendly – none of this requires any socializing or social activity. This is all about connection. One glance of yours, acknowledging another person’s presence, affirms their purpose. Accepting one glance from someone else – being noticed without need of any words – affirms yours.
Infused by wonder.
It looks different. When you see things that closely, that slowly, and see all that goes into something so insignificant… you feel wonder. You can’t help it.
Saint Thorlak had a horrible time socializing. It was not his forte. It was painful and stressful and intimidating. Yet people came to see him all the time, even when he was a young boy, to listen to him speak and ask questions. He didn’t resent it. He found that he didn’t like socializing… but he thrived in sharing wonder. One or two moments of imparting the love he felt toward God and Creation, and his cup was filled, good measure and flowing over. And so were the cups of those who visited him.
As an adult, Saint Thorlak served hundreds of people, day after day, as priest, abbot and bishop. He never learned to love socializing… but he was beloved, and he loved each person in his path, with the wonder of each one reflecting a different aspect of God to his hungry heart.
Hunger for wonder… and we can never be spiritually starved. Use Matthew 7:7-12 for confirmation.
RELATE: Share a moment of wonder with someone by telling them (or writing to them) something that delighted you. If you feel embarrassed doing this, treat it like an experiment and do it simply to observe their response. (Other people are as inexperienced with wonder as we are, so do not be discouraged if they seem unimpressed. Remember, it’s your wonder you are offering them a share in – not their approval you are seeking.)
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak